Apple’s Possible Strategy for removing the Audio Jack in New iPhones

At Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7 announcement this week, one of their execs stated, when talking about this new phablet, “You know what else it comes with? An audio jack. Just saying.” Clearly, a knock at the rumors Apple may not have an audio jack on future mobile products.

At this point, ditching the audio jack is still a rumor as Apple does not confirm any specs on any products until the day they release them. But it begs the question: if Apple is doing this, is there some method behind this madness? The media and even some customers have decried the idea of Apple not shipping an iPhone without the popular audio jack and I have seen some comments asking if Apple even knows what it is doing when it comes to changing the rules of the game.

As an Apple follower for three decades, I have come to understand that anything they do has some strategic goal for them and, in some cases, a strategic goal for driving broad industry innovation. My sense is both of these are in play if they do ship an iPhone without an audio jack.

From a historic perspective, Apple has always been a contrarian. It started with the design of the Mac and its introduction of a GUI and mouse. But, at that time, the one item they changed in the Mac’s original design that caused them serious consternation was the decision to go from a 5 1/4″ floppy disk to a 3.5” rotating storage medium in a hard shell case. You should have heard the screams and yelling the PC insiders had with that one. Yet, this one move by Apple drove the entire PC industry into ditching the bigger floppy drives and moving to the 3.5” storage format.

Then in 1989, Apple shocked the industry by creating a Mac that had a CD-ROM drive inside. Apple was visionary and saw the value of mixed media and needed a new one for storage that went well beyond what they could get on a 3.5″ disk. Again, industry vets mocked them but this move ushered in the era of multimedia and changed the way we used PCs as both a creation and communication tool. Apple took similar gambles when they introduced the candy colored iMacs and got us away from the square battleship grey PCs most people were used to.

Lessons from Apple’s past show us that, while many moves they made may have gone against the current industry trends, in most cases, these decisions turned out to be something that forced the industry in a new direction that, in the end, was better for Apple as well as their competitors.

I suspect this is the case again with the audio jack. If Apple does ship an iPhone or any other mobile products without an audio jack, the key purpose I see will be to drive the industry closer to the overall vision of wireless headsets, charging and communications. I myself have not used a wired headset for two years. When I go for my walks, I use a Bose Bluetooth over-the-ears wireless headphone. When taking calls on my iPhone, I use a in-ear bluetooth headset. In my car, my iPhone connects to the wireless system in the car’s audio system. Yes, I have dozens of wired headsets and earphones that still have a 3.5 mm audio jack but all are sitting idle in drawers around the house and office.

Also, the price of wireless headsets has come down rapidly. You can get a pretty good quality Bluetooth headset for under $100 now. And, if Apple does make this move, they would most likely ship a Lightning adaptor for a 3.5mm audio option or, at the very least, sell one dirt cheap for the first six months to a year as they did when they moved from the old iPhone connector to the Lightning connector.

Ultimately, a hands-free wireless audio and charging world is the future. I believe Apple wants to push the industry in that direction sooner rather than later. Also, while Samsung disses Apple today, if Apple does this, you can be sure Samsung will be one of the first to follow, given their track record of copying Apple on many things.

Published by

Tim Bajarin

Tim Bajarin is the President of Creative Strategies, Inc. He is recognized as one of the leading industry consultants, analysts and futurists covering the field of personal computers and consumer technology. Mr. Bajarin has been with Creative Strategies since 1981 and has served as a consultant to most of the leading hardware and software vendors in the industry including IBM, Apple, Xerox, Compaq, Dell, AT&T, Microsoft, Polaroid, Lotus, Epson, Toshiba and numerous others.

3 thoughts on “Apple’s Possible Strategy for removing the Audio Jack in New iPhones”

  1. I wish them luck. I’m sure they will have enough of a market to justify the move. Bluetooth headsets are both unreliable and inconvenient in my own personal experience. In the bigger picture I’ve also given up on wireless accessories for all my computers. I’ve grown weary of constantly recharging batteries and wireless accessories. I hate bluetooth constantly losing connection. It was all a constant source of consternation. Wires may be ugly, but they are most dependable.


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